A multinational team in the United States: When a semiconductor company found a problem on one of their projects, a mid-level engineer immediately sent an email message to their Japanese client company (who was paying for the work), telling them of the issue. The response from the Japanese company was swift and indignant. They were very upset, and American executives spent a great deal of time trying to repair the damage.
Analysis: The American engineer who sent the mail was concerned about the issue and thought that it was good diligence to immediately inform the client of the problem. From the Japanese side, they were really upset about being informed 1) by email, and 2) by a mid-level engineer.
For the Japanese company, they expected at the very least a phone call from a senior executive in the case of such significant news. This problem could have been avoided if cultural training had been conducted, and clear standards of communication had been set. After this incident, the company instituted a ‘no contact’ policy between non-executive engineers and the Japanese client.